Things we learned in MLS Week 12

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 starts on Tuesday with RBNY vs. KC, so the lessons of week 12 had to be learned quickly.

1. Landon Donovan has a sense of occasion

It was beginning to feel as though LD was deliberately waiting until after the World Cup (at least the group stage), and LA Galaxy's July 4 home game against Portland Timbers, to finally score the goal MLS has been waiting for: #135, the one that would put him in sole possession of the league's all-time scoring record.

If that was the plan, it was changed abruptly by Jurgen Klinsmann's surprise decision to go without the most reliable goal scorer in USMNT's history. Donovan landed back in LA after barely a week of pre-World Cup training, and with little else to do but play some soccer for his club.

Memorial Day weekend, one of the worst teams in MLS visiting, and maybe just the slightest bit of a point to prove: conditions were perfect for a statement game from the Galaxy's star. He scored twice - which is twice more than he'd managed so far this year - and set up a third.

We've been talking about LD all season: will he score? Why can't he score? What will he do in Brazil? Wait, he's not going to Brazil?

We're still talking about him now, but in a more positive context than has been the case for most of 2014. 136 goals and counting. LD has successfully changed the narrative around him: it's no longer about the World Cup, it's about his status in MLS. And now the goals he needed have come, it may be time to turn attention to another #LD135 moment: assists.

Steve Ralston's all-time MLS record is 135, and LD has 120. Fifteen assists is an improbable number for LD to tally this season, but if he can get himself to within single digits of the record this year, it'll be time to fire up that hashtag again in 2105.

2. The English are everywhere

Last week's lessons included some thoughts about the Argentine influence on MLS. This week, it's the turn of the English to step into the spotlight.

Dom Dwyer bagged a brace to take the lead in the Golden Boot race, in a match which was dominated by English players - Jermain Defoe and Luke Moore combined for Toronto FC's first in that game, and Bradley Orr scored TFC's second.

Bradley Wright-Phillips returned to the score sheet at Red Bull Arena to pull level with Dwyer at the top of the scoring charts. If you want goals in MLS this year, go find yourself an Englishman.

Though, as was ably demonstrated by Maxi Urruti against RBNY and Federico Higuain against Chicago Fire, if you want wins, you may still be better off with an Argentine.

3. Defenders are overrated

Sporting KC could just about field four fit defenders - all full backs - against Toronto this week, and then Chance Myers was injured, and the team was forced into greater improvisation at the back. The back line wasn't great, but KC did not lose.

Columbus Crew was so depleted by World Cup call ups that it was forced into starting Hector Jimenez, conventionally regarded as a midfielder of attacking inclination, in the back line, alongside three second string defenders. They kept a clean sheet.

San Jose was also forced to cobble together a set of full backs into a defensive unit, and they shut out Houston Dynamo.

Those three teams were missing some of the best defenders in the league. Not one lost; two posted shutouts.

The common denominator: they all played at home. The conclusion: stars of the back line are not as important in MLS as home field advantage.

4. There is a new Rookie of the Year frontrunner

Chicago's Harrison Shipp is still in the conversation, but he's currently looking like a good player on a so-so team. Patrick Mullins, on the other hand, has become increasingly vital to the Revolution's burgeoning Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup aspirations.

It's not just the fact that he keeps scoring - as he did this week, to bring his tally to four goals in five appearances this season - but also his ability to play the center forward role in Jay Heaps's system better than accomplished internationals like Jerry Bengtson, and more highly rated players like Teal Bunbury.

The Revs have other options, and Mullins is the unlikely best of them. Shipp has less competition around him in Chicago, and would appear the less likely of the two to finish this season on a winning team.

The race is on.

5. And there's a rookie in contention for Coach of the Year

Pencil in Jeff Cassar for the Coach of the Year award, if you haven't done so already. Real Salt Lake is now 12 games unbeaten under his management, and that matches the MLS record for an unbeaten start to the season.

A  hot start to the year doesn't win you anything (the two hottest teams - FC Dallas and Montreal Impact - at the start of the 2013 season both dumped their head coaches by the end of the year), but it does get you attention.

Cassar would be the first true rookie head coach to win the award since Preki in 2007 (Caleb Porter, last year's Coach of the Year, was only a rookie in the sense he had not coached in MLS, but he had run one of the college system's more successful programs for several years - that's why he was hired).

MLS likes a homegrown success story. If Cassar can keep RSL among the league's elite, using a system and players largely inherited from predecessor Jason Kreis, his story should be attractive to those who vote on COTY at the end of the season.

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